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Located in the heart of Illinois' largest concentration of natural lakes, Chain O'Lakes State Park is a water-oriented recreation area with outstanding opportunities for boaters, anglers and skiers.

The park borders three natural lakes - Grass, Marie and Nippersink - and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes (Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead) that make up the Chain. In addition, the park contains a 44-acre lake within its boundaries. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline, Chain O'Lakes State Park is the heart of a water wonderland.

Chain O’Lakes State Park, located in northeast Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties, became a state park in 1945 when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O'Lakes Conservation Area, and was incorporated into the state park in 1957. The park features seven picnic areas and four trail systems. The Nature's Way hiking trail starts at Oak Grove Picnic Area and is 2 ¼ miles in length. The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has an accessible trail that a quarter-mile long. The park also contains 8 miles of equestrian trail and a 6 miles biking/hiking trail.

Camping is popular at Chain O’Lakes, with more than 230 campsites, three cabins, and a youth group camp. Camping reservations are accepted at ExploreMoreIL™ or by calling 866-716-6550. Youth groups sites must be booked through the park office, please call 847-587-5512.

Fishing is popular in the Chain O’Lakes, featuring bluegill, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, muskie, northern pike, bullhead, catfish and yellow and white bass – as are seasonal hunting programs for dove, waterfowl, archery deer and permit pheasant hunting. Dove, waterfowl, archery deer and permit pheasant hunting are available online and at the park. Hunting fact sheets, containing all hunting regulations, are available at the park office. All hunting is by registration only.

Natural Features

The land making up Chain O'Lakes State Park is chiefly fresh waterbog over deep peat deposits. The river bluff areas and gently sloping morainal hills rise to 200 feet, and were deposited by Illinois' last glacier.

Chain O'Lakes has a mixture of oak and hickory hardwood timber. The park also contains cherry, elm, birch, sumac and spruce, providing rich colors that attract numerous visitors each fall, plus some scattered pine plantings.

Nature lovers will find a rich assortment of wildflowers in the spring, summer and fall.

Historically, Grass Lake once was almost entirely covered with American lotus each summer, and attracted great crowds, including tour boats. Today, some areas of lotus remain within the lake.

Two hundred acres of restored native prairie provide nesting habitat for grassland bird species and abundant backdrops for nature photographers.

Some of the wildlife visitors are likely to encounter are white-tailed deer, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mink, opossum, skunks, raccoons, gophers, foxes, badgers, beaver, coyotes and groundhogs. A check-list of the nearly 200 birds that have been identified in the park is available at the park office.

Turner Lake Nature Preserve

About 80 acres within the park have been set aside as a nature preserve to protect a segment of the park's bog environment and the unique plants associated with the area. 


The Chain O'Lakes area was inhabited by central Algonquian Tribes when Europeans first arrived in the mid-1600s. The predominant tribes in the region at that time were the Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi. These Native American groups led a semi-mobile lifestyle and grew corn, hunted, fished and gathered wild plant foods.

Joliet and Marquette passed through what became Chain O'Lakes State Park in 1673 as they traveled the Fox River during their Illinois explorations. French trappers and traders were the first Europeans to explore the area. The first European settlement was at Fort Hill, near Mundelein, a large mound rising out of the prairie, formerly a lookout point for Native Americans.

Chain O'Lakes became a state park in 1945, when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O'Lakes Conservation Area. This land was incorporated into the state park in 1957. A farm at the park purchased by the Department of Conservation in 1969 was originally owned by the Stevens family, farmers who received the land under a land grant in 1843.


The park is for everyone to enjoy, so help keep it clean. Place all litter in trash containers. Special recycling receptacles for aluminum cans are located in the Honey Suckle Hollow Camp Area. Other recycling receptacles are available in various locations throughout the park.